Review: Althea & Oliver
Thursday, June 18, 2015 10:00 AM

Althea & Oliver: A Novel by Cristina Moracho. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2014. ISBN 9780670785391.


As children, new friends Althea and Oliver spent their first evening together playing Candy Land. Ten inseparable years later, having cycled through board games, card games, and games of their own inventions, they have become the kind of best friends who are often mistaken for twins. After an evening of Non-Stop Party Wagon, Oliver’s game of saying ‘yes’ to everything new that presents itself, they find themselves in unfamiliar romantic territory. Althea grows increasingly aware of her romantic love for Oliver just as he develops a sudden sleeping disorder, the first bout of which causes him to sleep for three straight weeks. Oliver’s diagnosis of Kleine-Levin Syndrome, a rare but real affliction, pulls him away from Althea as he is repeatedly drawn into long periods of slumber followed by a departure of his usual character and mood. Struggling with Oliver’s absence at the height of her attraction to him, Althea makes a bad, unalterable choice, and the ramifications separate them further.


Set in the mid-1990s, the pop culture references might be difficult for modern teens to recognize, but I savored reminders of the music, movies and books of the times as experienced by Althea and Oliver. And from the moment I read the epigraph, a line from The Replacements’s song titled Unsatisfied, I knew the story would be one of conflict, apology and ensuing distance.

Author Moracho depicts the duo so clearly that I rooted for them from the first page. As unrequited — or at least unsatisfied — love goes, unfortunately things will and do fall apart. It’s a read not only for teens, but also for adults who enjoy the nostalgic twinge of young love and possibilities.

Further Information

Young love wants a soundtrack, and this book provides it deftly. For other similar reads that involve the “Boom Clap” soundtrack of change and adjustment during the pinnacle of self-discovery in the formidable teen years, try these reads: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

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